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Where to go in Vietnam Top Things to See Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum For one of the most bizarre morning you'll

ever spend, join the (lengthy) queues to see the embalmed body of Vietnam's national hero: Ho Chi Minh, who led the country's resistance forces and declared independence in 1954. A truly surreal museum is worth looking at too. The imperial city of Hu Hu, the former capital of the emperors of Vietnam, and the remains of the Imperial Citadel (largely destroyed during the Tet offensive in 1968) are unforgettable for history buffs. Tour the nearby mausoleums of several of Vietnam's emperors, including Khai Dinh and Tu Duc, each unique in style Halong Bay This world famous site is made up of 3,000 limestone islands rising out of the South China Sea. The area is strange, eerie and very beautiful. Many of the islands contain bizarre cave formations and grottoes. Sapa The highlands, a day's train ride north of Hanoi, is home to several hill tribes whose way of life has changed very little. The residents still wear colorful traditional costumes and offer an insight into a bygone time. Hanoi The thrilling capital of Hanoi that retains an air of French colonial elegance (through the fug of moped fumes) has pretty yellow stucco buildings lining leafy streets. Wander round the Old Quarter, a fascinating maze of quirky shops, lively markets and French-style cafs. Dalat To escape the heat of the plains, head for Dalat, a former colonial hill station, reminiscent of a French town, with faded, elegant villas evocative of another era. The romantic lakes and alpine scenery are magnets for Vietnamese honeymooners. Ho Chi Minh City Savour the hustle and bustle of life on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, with tiny temples and faded French colonial buildings overshadowed by gleaming high rises. Visit the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum to learn about the realities of war. Cao Dai Temple Attend the midday service at the unique Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh. En route, scramble through the tunnels at Cu Chi, from where the Viet Cong successfully launched attacks against US forces. River markets The river markets on the Mekong Delta, are an unmissable sight. Life here is dominated by the mighty Mekong and much of Vietnam's rice crop is grow, and the floating markets are still an essential part of life in the south. Top Things to Do Hiking There are hundreds of long distance hiking trails around the country, and a significant infrastructure for visitors wanting guided hiking tours. Whether in the Yok Don National Park or in the valleys around Sapa, two feet is a great way to meet the rural residents.

Bia hois The best way to meet the locals is to pull up a low plastic chair in the pavement bar order some beer, order fresh peanuts and quails eggs and chat to the locals. Even with a language barrier, you'll be chinking glasses long into the night. Beaches The beaches of Vietnam are superb. Vung Tau, southeast of Ho Chi Minh City or Nha Trang has some superb snorkeling around the many offshore islands. And take the opportunity to slide down the sand dunes at Mui Ne. Shopping For anyone who likes handicrafts, Vietnam is Nirvana. Wooden water puppets, with ingenious mechanisms, silk, lacquerware, trinkets, clothes - including superb tailors -can be found even in the most remote areas, and for bargain prices. Hire a motorbike It is becoming increasingly popular to hire a motor bike - invariably a Russian made 125cc Minsk - and ride it from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Riddled with all sorts of dangers, not least the vast amount of bikes in the cities, it is nevertheless an exhilarating way to see the country. Horse riding For those who refer real horsepower, the emerald green lakes surrounded by mountains around Da Lat is a popular destination. Horse trails can also be found in Ba Be Lake National Park and Cuc Phuong National Park (near Hanoi). History tour See some of the Vietnam War sights by walking part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, used as supply routes by the North Vietnamese during the war. Go underground into the claustrophobic network of tunnels used by villagers and guerrillas during the war at Cu Chi. Take the train Hop on the Reunification Express (correct in only the first word), and take the slow train between Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to sample life on Vietnam's railways, and the spectacular views through the little-visited middle of the country. Take a junk on Ha Long Bay Sure it is touristy, and you'll be among a flotilla of dozens of old converted junks, but Halong Bay remains one of the most impressive sights in the world. Take the opportunity to borrow a kayak (all boats should do this) and paddle through the limestone karsts dramatically rising up out of the sea. Cooking lessons Learn the subtleties of Vietnamese cookery at a class in ancient Hoi An. Submerge into the hustle and bustle of the market to buy provisions before retreating to the calm of the kitchen.